Kalamazoo's Milwood Neighborhood has a new leader and a new name

A meet-and-greet gathering will take place Aug. 23, 2022 to help residents of the Milwood Neighborhood in Kalamazoo learn more about plans for the future and get better acquainted with Gregory L.J. Shelton, the new president of the Milwood Neighborhood Association.
It should also help them get used to the organization’s new name.
The lead organization for area residents has been renamed after operating for more than 28 years as the Milwood Neighborhood Watch. The organization is being re-branded to send a message that it is more than a neighborhood watch.
“When we use the word ‘watch’ a lot of residents associate that with ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot of people going around patrolling, and kind of writing neighborhood tickets if you will,’” Shelton says. “Where, as an association, this is more community events, planning, and programming. It’s providing resources to residents of the neighborhood.”
With a history as a payment specialist for a financial institution and an account specialist for a university, he says he doesn’t shy away from getting things organized. “A lot of people don’t really like to do that,” Shelton says of organizational work. But he was vice president of the Neighborhood Watch under Chad Hoke, who left the leadership post at the end of June, saying he did not have enough time to continue to serve the role.
Hoke had taken over from John Hilliard, the second president of the Neighborhood Watch. The organization was founded about 28 years ago with a strong focus on preventing crime. A retired businessman, Hilliard spent a considerable amount of time patrolling the large neighborhood at the southeast corner of the city of Kalamazoo, listening to the concerns of residents, and trying to plan community-building events. He became ill late in 2021 and passed away last November.
Like Hilliard, Hoke was working to grow the organization’s board of directors. Shelton says the board presently has four members (including him) but needs to add five more.
Asked what attracted him to the leadership role, the married father of two young children says, “Because it is better to give back to the community.”
Shelton relocated from Grand Rapids to Milwood about two years ago. He is owner of Grand Unique Laundry, a business that includes home pick-up of clothing, blankets, linens, and other items, as well as their return delivery. It started in December of 2020 as an online business, selling laundry detergent, but evolved. It now has a brick-and-mortar location at 658 Maple Hill Drive. “Now I’m able to offer my wash-dry-fold laundry service,” Shelton says.
While the neighborhood association is in transition, Shelton says it does not have the capacity to host big events such as National Night Out, which is set for Aug.2, 2022. Past National Night Out events attracted an estimated 450 people for fun and community-building activities before the COVID-19 pandemic.
At present, he says he and the board are working to change the organization’s branding.
“Right now, in progress, we’re creating a new logo,” he says. “That’s going to be kind of like the biggest change along with the name. As far as like the big events that have been done, like the annual garage sales, we’re definitely keeping that,” he says. “And definitely once we build up the full board, we would like to return for National Night Out. … The big events, we’re definitely going to continue.”

Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.